Since Keystone Foundation turned 25 on November 19th, it has raised spirits and brought ample excitement within the Keystone Family. Together, we decided to commemorate this milestone by celebrating events that pertain to the indigenous communities and their culture. Slow Food Day or Terra Madre Day was on the horizon and was certainly a perfect occasion to begin the 25th year celebration. Last Forest Enterprises Pvt. Ltd and Keystone Foundation formed a convivium in 2016 – the first ever in South India, which helped us attain the ‘Slow Food Nilgiris’ tag.
Abhishek K.R. took the lead to administer and coordinate the event across all field areas, because a Slow Food celebration without the community is a hive without bees. With minimum budget, we also raised money internally through a mystery box placed at the cafeteria, to make this event a memorable one. Field staffs from all areas (Hasnur, Pillur, Bangalapadigai, Nilambur, Sigur etc) coordinated with the community members regarding transport, back and forth. The community was obliging and glad to travel to participate in the celebrations. The menu is always the most significant part of the Slow Food Day. This task was made easier as people from the community, as well as individuals volunteered to cook the meals for the day. Some of the dishes that were decided upon were – Ragi ball or Kali, Avarai Curry, Amaranthus in Honey, SamaiPayasam & NatuKozhi. Besides that, small quantities of food items unique to different landscapes were on the menu.
The previous day began with a meeting to finalise the proceedings of the event. We split up work among us and asked people in the organisation to volunteer. While the plan to decorate the campus for the event came up, youngsters in the organisation painted the road on the campus, an exercise that everybody wanted to be a part of!
Slow Food Day was celebrated on the 8th of December prior to the official date – 10th December, which occurred on a Sunday. People from all villages arrived well before time. The cooking took place on the campus at the open space available behind the canteen. Space was allotted for each dish, while some of it was cooked together on stoves placed side by side. On the other side, Arakol bands from Pillur and Bangalapdigai were organising themselves and were ready to beat their drums to raise the spirits. Apart from that, a Theatre group named Perch from Chennai, performed a hilarious 60-minute play titles ‘KiRa Kozhambu’– a satirical twist of brief stories. A captivating performance that amused the community members and visitors.
Aritra Bose, Manager of Place to Bee (A Slow Food restaurant), Ooty, spoke regarding the significance of Slow Food Day and its history. Later, the band started playing. At first, only a few showcased their dancing skills to the indigenous beats, but the number grew as time went by. The aroma of dishes stimulated the appetites of people dancing to the drums, and gradually changed their focus. It was a pleasure to see 250 participants from different communities come together for the event and celebrate with abundant zeal.
More festivals are being planned for the 25th year on which we will keep you posted. We would also like to thank each one you who paused here, before continuing on your journey and to those who continue to contribute to our success.